Cape Breton University will be offering all of its classes online this fall, making it the first Nova Scotia university to announce a full move to virtual learning amid COVID-19.
The announcement comes as post-secondary institutions across Canada are trying to determine how they will offer students the courses they need, while still protecting them and staff from the spread of the virus.
Tanya Brann-Barrett, the university’s associate vice-president academic, said the school will ensure students continue to have access to all of the traditional supports.
She said a working group is determining challenges with moving to online-only learning and coming up with solutions.
One such challenge, said Brann-Barrett, is labs and experiential work. She said making the decision early to move to online-only classes gives the university more time to problem solve.
“There is various software that you can purchase so you can do certain things virtually that are typically done in person,” she told CBC’s Mainstreet Cape Breton.
“But what we need time to do is really critically assess those tools and see what will work the best and then work with our faculty to be able to utilize that.”
University too cramped for physical distancing
Scott Stewart, president of the Association of Nova Scotia University Teachers and a professor at CBU, said the university just doesn’t have the space for physical distancing.
“There’s no way that we can, for example, split up classes into two rooms and social distance because we were last year at capacity or overcapacity,” he told Mainstreet Cape Breton.
Stewart expects faculty will continue to work at home to prepare for the changes coming this fall.
“That will be a huge difference and will require a lot of work by faculty over the summer trying to move from in-person delivery,” said Stewart.
Brann-Barrett said faculty and students needed to know what their fall semester is going to look like.
The move also ensures international students know they do not have to be in Canada to take courses from CBU.
Rules on what country you need to be in to take Canadian university online courses have been relaxed due to the pandemic.
“We’re so reliant on international students and I suspect we’ve made the announcement so early to assure our international students that all our courses are going to be available to them online even if they can’t be here in person,” Stewart said.
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